Sunday, February 22, 2009

Member News: Robin Roy

The Synagogue Project, by Robin Roy, a collection of over 30 luminous, large format photographs of synagogues spanning continents around the world, will be exhibited in the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Art Gallery, at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, from March 24 through June 24, 2009. The Gallery is located at 3506 Gwynnbook Ave. in Owings Mills, MD, 21117.

The photographer, from Santa Monica, CA, will be in town for the Opening Reception on Wednesday, March 25 from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Her website provides additional information. The exhibit has previously been seen in Skokie, IL and Phoenix, AZ.

Images are from: St. Petersburg, Russia; Nairobi, Kenya; Santiago, Chile; Stockholm, Sweden; Istanbul, Turkey and many other cities. The use of natural light glowing within these sacred spaces gives the photographs their strong emotional appeal. Because of their size, (20" x 30" and 24" x 30"), the viewer can imagine standing in that place of worship, or on the street in that country, hearing the prayers within.

The exhibit includes information about each of these synagogues and personal comments by the artist. The photographs are archival quality lightjet prints signed by the artist and are for sale.

"I've been really excited by viewers' reactions." Roy said. "People are surprised by the beauty, color, textures, intricate designs and wide variety of the synagogues. They are amazed by the age of the buildings and the historic communities. For example, the Jews in Split, Croatia date back to Roman times, about 2,000 years. The Split Synagogue, built earlier, was restored in the 18th Century.

The Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul, built by Jews of Ohri (Macedonia) more than 550 years ago, in the 1400s - was also renovated several times in the 1700s, 1800s and recently - in 1990 just before the Quincentennial Celebrations in 1992 . [The Quincentennial celebrated the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman Empire, driven from Spain by the Spanish Inquisition.]"

Because of security considerations, Roy explained, "I always try to obtain permission to photograph ahead of time, before I arrive in the city. Sometimes the way I got in to photograph is a story in itself. I sent many e-mails and multiple faxed copies of my passport to the Chief Rabbinate of Istanbul. They set up timed appointments for me. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, I couldn't reach anyone, so I showed up and pleaded with the guard. In Brussels, Belgium I showed up and was denied entrance because one of their guards was sick, they were short-handed. So I photographed the beautiful facade of the building. Reluctantly, in Santiago, Chile, I gave personal information over the phone to a person I trusted was a representative of the Jewish community. He was and I took one of my favorite photographs of their magnificent stained glass windows, despite a camera malfunction."

The historical changes in the communities may be seen in the buildings. Since these photos were taken some have been reconstructed, some, demolished. The synagogues are a testament to the resilience of the Jewish people to survive and worship wherever they live.

- viewer reactions -

"I am blown away at your work. I just wanted to let you know and encourage you to go as far as you can with the synagogues of the world." Robb Packer, Buffalo Grove, IL
Author of "Doors of Redemption", 2006, Metro Books.
Author of "Chicago's Forgotten Synagogues", 2007, Arcadia Publishing.

"Beautiful art!" T.A., Glendale, WI

"- enjoyed seeing the Great Synagogue of Stockholm - [I was] Associate Rabbi 1981-1982" Rabbi A.L., Phoenix, AZ

"A tour de force!" N.L., Los Angeles, CA

"I would never have seen these sanctuaries. Thank you!" R. M., Oakwood Hills, IL

"The [deserted] synagogue in South Philly is where I was a bar mitzvah!" M.K., Surprise, AZ
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